A few months ago, American Family Physician published a nice review article on the diagnosis and management of genital ulcers. How do you remember the classic appearances of the lesions? I often quickly check references to confirm my suspicions.

I find the two following tables helpful to remember. The table of differential diagnoses is from AFP. The article also reviews the confirmatory diagnostic testing and treatment protocols. The table of the clinical characteristics for the main infectious causes is from “The Practitioner’s Handbook for the Management of Sexually Transmitted Disease”.

Note: Although the primary lesion from Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) can have a variable appearance the tender, and often suppurative lymphadenopathy (buboes) are classic.

genital ulcers

PV Card: Genital Ulcers

Adapted from [1] Go to ALiEM (PV) Cards for more resources.

Most recent 2010 CDC treatment guidelines


  1. Roett M, Mayor M, Uduhiri K. Diagnosis and management of genital ulcers. Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(3):254-262. [PubMed]
Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at https://t.co/50EapJORCa Bio: https://t.co/7v7cgJqNEn
Michelle Lin, MD